The teenager sentenced Tuesday for his mother's murder is seen with RCMP officers in May 2009 outside court. By law, he cannot be identified. ((CBC))

A Fort Macleod, Alta., teen has been sentenced to four years in prison for killing his mother with an axe.

He will also serve three years under conditional supervision, which together with the prison term is the maximum sentence under the intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision sentencing option of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The sentence was handed down Tuesday in a Lethbridge, Alta., courtroom.

The teen, who was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder.

His 34-year-old mother was found dead in her home in May 2009. Her son and his female friend were at the house when police were called to check in on the mother.

Justice Eric Peterson called the crime "brutal, savage, senseless and unexplainable" but refused to sentence the teen as an adult, saying he hopes he can instead be rehabilitated through an intensive program specifically for young offenders.

It was previously said in court that the teenager, who is now 18, is at a high risk to re-offend.

Mother tried to get help for son

After a number of medical assessments, experts said the young man suffers from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse and recommended the rehabilitation in order for him to have a chance at a normal life. 

"With the justice system the way it is, [the sentence is] the best possible thing — I do believe that — for everybody," the victim's sister said outside court Tuesday.

"My nephew's always been troubled, and his mother did try everything possible to get him help … When this happened, we were shocked but not surprised."

The woman said her sister had been seeking intensive treatment for her son for two months prior to her death and that she believed her sister would have wanted to see her son in such a rehabilitation program.

"She would have stood in front of a bus to save his life," she said.

The teen's lawyer said the sentence might seem small or short, but it's quite significant when one considers his client's young age. He also pointed out that his client has already spent 16 months in custody.

Crown prosecutor Eric Brooks said he had great hope the teen would take up the opportunity to fix the things that have been going wrong with his life and become a productive person.

"This is totally and completely a tragedy that that young man is going to have to live with for the rest of his life," Brooks said.

Neither the woman nor her son can be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.